We arrived in New York four nights before the cruise. It had been many years since we were in the Big Apple so we wanted to have plenty of time to see the City and to relax from our long journey. The HOHO buses was a good option and we had picked up a good special on the net before we left home.
On 24 October we embarked the cruise. We arrived about 11 a.m. and we were on the ship in about half an hour. Lunch was awaiting us. We did not get into our stateroom until about 2 p.m. We sailed at 4 p.m. after life drill.
The following day we had our Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle in the Grand Bar from 4.30 p.m. till 6 p.m. Approx 30 members really enjoyed the informal get together.
I will only discuss the ports where we did private tours.
HAMILTON 14 Cruise Critic Members did a tour with Grace-Ann Fox of Mini Mega Transportation Service. Grace-Ann was a great guide and made sure that we didn't leave Hamilton without seeing everything. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
CASTRIES, ST LUCIA 10 Cruise Critic Members did a tour with Cosol Tours. Another great guide who was proud to show us as much as possible. We sampled lots of good local food and rum - the local fish cakes, johnny cakes, coconut cakes, and different local fruits from the Island. We will be having a mobile bar with rum punch, local beer, water, soda. All eats and drinks are free. A couple of highlights were the only Drive In Volcanoe in the World and the Botanical Gardens. http://www.cosol-tours.com/tours.html
SANTAREM Brazil 14 Cruise Critic Members were picked up at the pier. We went on a Cage Boat and went downstream to the Meeting of the Waters. Quite a large group of PINK Dolphins put on a great display for us as we made our way downstream. We went for a walk in the 'IGAPO" Floodplain forest. It was hard going as there had been recent rain but we were rewarded for our efforts. We saw a couple of sloths in the trees. We were given a demonstration of rubber tapping and told about the various trees and inhabitants of the forest. Due to rain we had to shorten our walk. We tried our hand at Piranha Fishing but without success. There were lots of interesting birds and a few iguana on the river bank. This tour was a good introduction to the Amazon. We were given a lunch box and fruit.
Contact Paulo Coelho email@example.com
BOCA DA VALERIA, Brazil Interesting tender port. Lots of locals dressed up with their animals happy to have their photo taken for 1 USD. An easy way to get close up photos of the jungle animals.
MANAUS Brazil 14 Cruise Critic did a 12 hour tour on the first day. We sailed for two hours up the river in a 20 seater speed boat to our first activity. Several of our group were able to swim with the pink dolphins and really enjoyed it. Most agreed that this was the highlight of an action packed day. These dolphins are free to come and go but obviously are happy to be around humans and enjoy the small fish they were being fed. Next we had a short stop at a local village (no shops). Followed by a buffet lunch at a private house which was plentiful and enjoyable. Then we went to an Indian village and they put on a ritual for us which was interesting.
One lady did not want to stay out after dark so we dropped her off at the port on our way down river. We went to the Meeting of the Waters which is a strange phenomenon. Next we went to the Janauary Floating restaurant. Before dinner we went for a walk through the forest/jungle to the huge floating water lilys (some lilys 6 feet across). It was dark by the time we walked back to the restaurant and we could here the sounds of the night in the jungle and fireflys were everywhere. We had a buffet dinner at the restaurant which was plentiful and good. Afterwards we went searching for caiman by torchlight in a motorised canoe. The guides managed to catch a couple for us and we were told all about them and we each were able to hold one and have our photos taken before they were thrown back into the water. Then back to the ship. What an amazing 12 hour day - just incredible. The day didn't seem too long as we had plenty to keep us entertained. The longest part was the initial 2 hour ride up the river but it was worth it to see the dolphins. Then we worked our way down river from activity to activity. We had a great guide called FABIO - a young fellow but very attentive and knowledegable. As there were 14 of us it only cost us $110 each - can't beleive that we got such a great tour so cheap.
Contact Daniel Barretto firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure you ask for FABIO to be your guide.
MANAUS SPECIAL CITY TOUR. The next morning we met FABIO again for a 4 1/2 hour City Tour. The tour covered all of the City highlights and was great value at USD40 for 14 pax.
PARINTINS Folklore show NOT to be missed. Very lively with great costumes and props. Can only be done as a Ship Excursion.
BARBADOS 12 NOV 8.00 a.m.
Rental Vehicle $125 + Fuel Costs
Six of us rented a vehicle. We had spent time working out where we would go. We went to the Harrison Caves. Travel through the caves is done in a train/tram with several stops with a commentary throughout. We stopped off in Speightstown Arlington House Museum,
St Nicholas Abbey Cherry Tree Hill and Sunbury Plantation House.
VIRGIN GORDA Four of us hired a taxi for 2 hours to take us around the island. Taxi's were more interested in taking people to the baths for a quick fare. After much perseverance we found one who would take us for $20 each. The taxi was a utility with padded seats in the back with a canopy. The driver was happy to show us all the sights and give us some commentary when we got out for photo stops.
GENERAL We really enjoyed our nights in the Polo Grill and Toscana. Great Food and great Service. Grand Dining room was very slow. Unless you want to spend 2-3 hours in the restaurant I suggest that you do not elect to share a table bigger than a 6 seater.
There were people on the cruise who didn't feel that they had experienced the Amazon. Private tours were certainly the best option as the ship excursions were not only expensive but seemed very limited in the activities/excursions offered. Unfortunately for the people on the overnight tour in Manuas they went through torrential rain on the way to the hostel where they stayed. Some said that their things got soaked. Others said that in some rooms there were no sheets supplied while others had sheets but no towels. From what some people said their activities were shortened/ cancelled (not sure which). We were the envy of the ship.
Disembarkment in Miami was a drawn out affair due to the Customs requirement of a face to face interview with each passenger.
To sum up we had a most enjoyable cruise in the company of our Cruise Critic Friends.